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Meet the potter who puts a little bit of Wirral in every piece at the new MerseyMade

10 months ago

Meet the potter who puts a little bit of Wirral in every piece at the new MerseyMade
Lonn Landis' pottery features at MerseyMade West Kirby

When she bought him a pottery wheel throwing experience as a present, Lonn Landis’ wife probably had no idea how costly it would turn out to be.

Lonn Landis is one of only a small number of artists specially chosen to help launch the new MerseyMade original artworks shop in West Kirby.

“I came back and said ‘I want a wheel now’,” smiles Lonn. “So it was probably the most expensive gift she’s ever got me!”

But it has turned out to be a wise one too.

After only a year, the ceramicist from Neston has seen demand for his pieces, which are created using materials sourced from the beaches near his home, grow.

“MerseyMade has transformed me into what I now consider myself to be, a professional potter,” he says. “They found me at the Wirral Open Studio Tour and wanted to carry my work, which is great.

“I can’t believe how well it’s selling.”

Its success, however, is probably due to the fact that every one of his ceramic pieces is created, in his own words, with ‘Hands, Heat, and Heart’.

And, because of his chemical engineering background, he has experimented with the clay and glazes he uses so every piece contains ‘a little bit of the Wirral’.

“I recently had someone come to me from Cornwall, who was from here originally, and he had bought something to take a part of this area, this world, back with him, and I thought that was cool.

“It’s important to me, and it’s proving important to other people too.”

Lonn, 55, who’s married to Sally with whom he has a daughter, Karina, 15, is originally from Pennsylvania in the States. He came to the UK through work, having been employed by ICI in America, and sought a job over here, moving to their then-base in Runcorn.

He now works in digital marketing, building websites and managing social media accounts … nothing of which immediately flags up ‘artist’.

But Lonn explains: “I have always made stuff. Whether it was macramé bracelets and necklaces in the ‘70s which I did, I have always had this need to create things.  I don’t consider myself an artist because I can’t draw or paint, but I’ve not had many periods in my life where I wasn’t doing or making something.”

Lonn first got into ceramics 10 years ago, when he was looking for things for his daughter to do, and they started ‘playing with clay’ at the Funky Aardvark craft centre in Chester.

Lonn Landis' pottery features at MerseyMade West Kirby
Lonn Landis’ pottery features at MerseyMade West Kirby

“I got hooked,” he says, “she didn’t.  I have been messing around with clay ever since, never seriously, and I ended up buying a kiln.”

It was in July last year that things changed, when Sally bought Lonn the chance to have a go at wheel throwing: “I liked the immediacy of it.  It can take ages to build something with clay and it has fingerprints and is a bit wobbly, but with a wheel you can have something refined in minutes.

“For me, it’s a chance to completely detach from the day job, and from stress. When I’m doing it I can’t think about, or do, anything else. You’re totally absorbed.”

Lonn has picked the craft up as he’s gone along, helped by sessions at The Pot Factory in Liverpool.

And he has experimented along the way too, to create mugs, vases, bowls and more that are very different from others.

He mixes clay from Thurstaston beach with commercial clay, and uses fragments of mussels shells in his glaze.

“It’s a mix between the scientific and the creative. Because I have a background in chemical engineering, I like to experiment. I ground down mussels shells – which is just another chemical – and used it in the glaze and it gave a really cool, speckly effect, as well as a local aspect.

“The clay from the beach improves the commercial clay – although the first time I tried it, it melted into a puddle!

Lonn Landis' pottery features at MerseyMade West Kirby
Lonn Landis’ pottery features at MerseyMade West Kirby

“There are two reasons why I do this, one because I have always been driven to the sea since I came to the UK, so it’s bringing in my love of that; and two, because it’s practical. I saw these things and thought let’s try that.

“I also like to be sustainable and protect the environment which has become very much a part of my work.”

While Lonn has sold online before, creating in between his ‘day job’, it is MerseyMade which has given him a direct route to selling and a whole new fanbase for what he does.

He is currently busy trying to keep up with orders and requests: “I have only got a small garage that I work in and so I am spending a lot of evenings and weekends in there,” he admits. “And I have made it harder for myself using foraged clay and shells in my glazing because there’s a lot more work involved.”

Eventually Lonn dreams of becoming a potter full-time and exploring his craft and his materials further (‘there’s an artist in the Ukraine who makes everything out of waste material’).

Until then, it’s an increasingly credible hobby.

“It’s a passion,” he says.  “I feel compelled to do it, to create and make things.  That’s my problem, I always like to try new things… but I think I will stick with this for a long time.”

You can find out more about Lonn’s ceramics here.

For more on MerseyMade click HERE.

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